Thousands attend Bonnke's two-day Vero Beach revival
The faithful fell to the ground and lay there, facial expressions serene. “Fire of God. Fire of God. Fire of God,” commanded Chauncey Crandall, a Palm Beach physician, as he placed his hands upon the frail and the diseased. One after another, the faithful slumped to the ground.
“Yes,” cried out Joyce Groff of Vero Beach, as the Christian cardiologist who calls himself “the praying doctor” placed his hand on her head and commanded that her affliction be gone.
With extended arm, Crandall – followed by two men in black suits who helped the distraught slip to the ground – stepped over their bodies and moved on to the next person.
“Fire of God. Fire of God. Fire of God,” Crandall repeated.
As Crandall walked back and forth among those in the crowd who swarmed around him, on the stage above the tangled and fallen stood Reinhard Bonnke, the evangelical crusader and Indian River Shores resident.
Bonnke was the reason 5,000 people gathered last Friday and Saturday nights under a huge revival tent in a rutted field at the Vero Beach Municipal Airport.
“If you couldn’t stand up, you can. If you get a tumor, that tumor will vanish,” Bonnke promised his audience during the weekend Gospel Fest.
“Jesus heals, not Bonnke. Now, remember I told you – at best – I am a nurse helping the great physician.”
Bonnke’s voice roared as he commanded cancers to wither and die.
Hundreds of people pressed toward Crandall, who continued to roam in front of the stage, ministering to the crowd.
Several people proclaimed themselves healed. They joined Bonnke on stage to share their news with the masses that jammed the tent on two very chilly February nights.
One woman, who pointed to her breast and armpit, said she was cured. She dropped to the stage to do pushups.
“I believe he is a man of God,” said Elaine Reed of Fort Pierce, who prior to Saturday night, had only seen Bonnke on Christian broadcast programs talking about his crusades in Africa. Bonnke claims some 55 million people on that continent have signed cards saying they were saved or born again and were going devote their lives to Jesus.
Bonnke’s Gospel Fest was not only a first for Vero Beach, but the first revival in this country for the 72-year-old crusader who grew up in Germany.
“This is a test for something greater,” he said. “I have already seen how God can change a minus into a plus, and once you see how God can change whole nations, you will be an incurable believer.”
Bonnke said his mission would no longer be focused on Africa, where he claims to have drawn millions to his revivals all over the continent.
“America,” he said. “America can be saved. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. We are going to fill stadiums. It isn’t to give me prominence. I don’t give two hoots. This has all happened because of the one who said, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’”
Bonnke founded his organization, Christ for All Nations, in 1974. The group took in more than $12.75 million in 2011, although none of that money goes to feed, clothe, house, educate or provide medical care for the desperate impoverished Africans who attended his revivals.
On neither night did Bonnke share with his followers that he, too, calls 32963 his home. He bought a $2.15 million penthouse at the Carlton, just north of John’s Island, six years ago.
Nor did he mention the report in Vero Beach 32963 Jan. 24 that detailed his lavish lifestyle thanks to millions of dollars the faithful give his ministry each year. According to organizational papers filed about the ministry, Bonnke’s total compensation in 2011 was $289,564.
In fact, Ministrywatch.com gave Christ for All Nations just two stars on a scale of one to five stars for how it collects and spends its money.
That did not seem to matter to the crowd packing Bonnke’s tent here. The faithful frequently cried and rose to their feet.
“Get ready,” Bonnke said. “I am an evangelist and I don’t apologize for it.”
True to form, Bonnke displayed his charisma. He smiled at the right times. With his heavy German accent, he was like a long-lost German uncle. Wry expressions formed on his face. He was animated. He dropped to his knees and raised his hands. He frequently paused to ask people if they were happy.
The crowd appeared to hang on his every word.
On both nights, Bonnke reminded the faithful that it takes money to put on an event like the Vero Beach revival.
As they listened, volunteers passed among them with white, plastic buckets the crowd soon stuffed with the white pledge envelopes that had been left on each of the seats prior to the three-hour event.
While many dismiss Bonnke and Crandall, who has ties to Orchid Island, as suspect as a result of claims of healing and raising people from the dead, those attending the revivals Friday and Saturday reaffirmed their faith in the men.
“I’m not going to die,” said Lynn Patterson, who is undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer. “It’s gone. I know it. God did this tonight.
“I just know it. He (Crandall) said ‘Fire of God’ and I cannot prove it, but I know it, I just know it’s gone.”